We Rep STEM aims to promote the work of inspiring people in the STEM community. Today, we’re featuring Sam Long, a high school science teacher in Denver, Colorado.
There is a shortage of qualified science and math teachers in Canada and the U.S. Read on to learn about the work Sam does and how he’s inspiring the next generation of scientists.
I’m Sam Long, a high school science teacher in Denver, CO and an out transgender man.
My job is important because some students get locked into thinking at a very young age that science is not for them. It’s often our students of color, students from lower-income families, and LGBTQ students who can’t see themselves as scientists. One reason for this is they never see themselves represented in the famous scientists they learn about or the teachers they’re supposed to learn from. Often students grow up thinking science is a cold, objective process with no connection to personal identity. All of this results in a dearth of diversity in STEM fields. And when scientist teams aren’t diverse, they lose out in their productivity, decision-making, and innovation.
It is the role of the teacher to change this trend from the bottom up.
I love my job because working with young people is great fun and a great privilege. My students are creative, funny and insightful. They’re also flippant, apathetic, and insecure. They are learning how to be people, and they’re becoming the people they’re going to be for the rest of their lives. My job is to teach them some basic science that they need to navigate the world, and my other job is to teach them how to interact with other humans effectively.
Most of my students have never met an openly trans person by the time they show up to my 9th-grade biology class. When I share my story about coming out to unsupportive parents, everybody can relate. Family conflict and identity are part of every life. Through my story, I teach my students that being trans is just one of many ways to be human. Through a unique gender-inclusive biology curriculum, my students learn that trans identities are not “unnatural” because beautifully diverse sex and gender are a part of countless other animal species as well.
The best part of my job is that when I go to work, I am living proof to my queer, trans, and questioning students that it’s possible to be a happy, successful trans adult.
Other miscellaneous notes about being a teacher – you get to talk about the subject you love all day. You never get behind on the current slang. You get to understand how minds work because you need to get young people to learn completely new and difficult things. You get to develop and refine amazing lessons that will help students understand that tricky topic way better than when you learned it the traditional way and struggled over it.
More information on Sam’s work, as well as a sample of his lesson plans, can be found on his personal website.
If you’d like to have your work featured on We Rep STEM, get in touch! We can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos courtesy of Sam Long.